Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Summer School 2022-2023

Loralee Hyde: My highlights from a wonderful week of fun and friendship!

Plus a mysterious dancing Unicorn…

This great crowd of dancers at the Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Summer School President’s Ball were keen to take to the dance floor after The Grand March. Johnsonville member Jeanette Watson is fourth from the left in the front row – she’s on the RSCDS NZ Branch Management Committee as Education and Training Coordinator. Photo: Miriam Laidlaw

What is Summer School?

In 2019, Johnsonville Club member Désirée Patterson gave this great account of the Summer Schools she had attended, including what is involved during this week of Scottish Country Dancing; the classes, social activities and evening events as well as the fun that is had.

I hadn’t attended a full RSCDS New Zealand Branch Summer School since Wellington in 2007-2008, where I took part in Noeline O’Connor’s Advanced Low Impact Class.

Since that time, I have occasionally enjoyed 3-4 days at Summer Schools over the Hogmanay to President’s Ball period including Masterton in 2017-2018

Johnsonville Club Members at Hogmanay in Masterton 2017-2018 – Alan, Elaine, Désirée, Pat, Janet, Linda and Loralee

The last time I danced at a Summer School was at the Opening Night of the Cambridge Summer School 2019-2020, where I enjoyed catching-up with old friends from around New Zealand and Australia.

At the Cambridge Summer School 2019-2020 – Yvonne Gray (North Shore), Christine Freeman (Melbourne), Loralee (Wellington) and Anne Walker (Perth).

At that time, there were reports of a strange virus spreading throughout China…but little did we know that in less than two months from that Summer School, we would experience a three-year hiatus in getting together again due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.

Finally…a RSCDS New Zealand Branch Summer School

Christchurch Region planned New Zealand Branch Summer Schools for 2020-2021 and then for 2021-2022. Sadly, both were cancelled due to the risk of covid.

The Auckland Region took up the gauntlet for Summer School 2022-2023. Would their plans come to fruition? Would dancers from New Zealand and Australia (plus some from the rest of the world) register? Would we finally get-together after three long years?

What a feeling of relief to arrive at The Parnell Hotel in Auckland on 28 December and meet so many happy and excited dancers, ready for a week of Scottish Country Dancing classes, social activities and evening functions.

The dancers were well ready for chatter…and more chatter (often deafening!) as we met up again after so many years; at breakfast, lunch and dinner, on our rides (or walks) to classes, at the afternoon activities and on the buses to the evening dances. And there were plenty of opportunities to make new friends with dancers coming from across the country as well as from Australia, Scotland, USA, Japan and Turkey.

Plus a mysterious Unicorn kept popping up in unexpected places. Adding to the magical world of Scottish Country Dancing perhaps?

The magical Unicorn oversees the information table near the dining room at The Parnell Hotel!

Here are some of my personal highlights of this Summer School.

My class: Something different

The classes to choose from at Summer School ranged from Development to High Energy and Technique. Plus a musicians’ course.

Johnsonville Club member Maureen Sullivan at her class second from the right in the front row, with her tutor Ruth Budden to her right and then musician Sharlene Penman. Photo: Miriam Laidlaw

An innovation this year was an Excursions Group, designed for non-dancers and those who wanted to save their legs for the evening functions. That option definitely suited me!

We were fortunate to have Katharine Hoskyn as our knowledgeable tour guide and driver, with varied outings throughout Auckland including the Auckland Botanic Gardens, Auckland Art Gallery and Auckland Museum (where the current T-Rex skeletons exhibition proved popular).

Usually we tackled a short walk each morning and invariably had coffee together in a café. What fun! With the added bonus of meeting dancers we hadn’t met before and finding out so much about our biggest city.

Excursion Group at the Auckland Botanic Gardens on 29 December: Loralee (Wellington), Malcolm (Canberra), Betty (Hawke’s Bay), Lynne (Bay of Plenty), Katharine (Auckland) and Jeanette (Rotorua)

The Auckland Botanic Gardens is large, covering 64 hectares (158 acres). I chose to find as many sculptures as possible on my walk.

Being an avid bird-lover, Loralee was thrilled to discover a sculpture of a rather over-size pīwakawaka/fantail in the gardens.

Musicians and MCs galore

A feature of this Summer School was the great number of different musicians providing toe-tapping music in the evenings, and the range of dancers giving the briefings. Thank you to all!

With Katharine Hoskyn and Neil Horne MCing, the theme of the Opening Night Social on 28 December was Welcome to Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Sharlene Penman, Anne-Marie Forsyth, Lynn Pettit and Margaret Peace of Glenfiddle played wonderful rollicking tunes for us to dance to.

Glenfiddle: Sharlene Penman, Anne-Marie Forsyth, Lynn Pettit and Margaret Peace

The Fantasy Night on 29 December had plenty of magic! For this special evening, the band Thissldhu, usually featuring Clare Simpson and Iain Matcham, turned into Gryffldhu with Iain ‘Hermione’ and Clare ‘Potter’ taking to the stage alongside MCs Philip Oliver and Emma Uren.

The band Gryffldhu, MCs Philip & Emma, Summer School Organiser Liz Hickey…with the magical Unicorn finding out what Scottish Country Dancing is all about

There was plenty of fantastical costumes on show: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Elrond and Galadriel, fairies, elves, the Statue of Liberty…and a ‘real’ unicorn that managed to dance the dolphin reels in Pelorus Jack without colliding with other dancers in the set!

Click on the gallery below to take a look at the array of costumes.


Gryffldhu magically morphed into Jimmydhu for the Barn Dance on 30 December, playing country favourites such as Turkey in the Straw to match the theme. MC Elaine Laidlaw entertained us with wonderful stories about the dances during her briefings.

Jimmydhu: Jimmy Clare and Jimmy Iain
The hall was bathed in orange light which accentuated the colours of the gingham shirts and floral dresses
Loralee at the right dancing The Reel of the Royal Scots. Photo: MIriam Laidlaw
Meanwhile, the Unicorn took time out for a snooze after a big feed of grain in its barn!

Hogmanay on New Year’s Eve is one of the great Scottish Country Dancing occasions. Find out more about the the customs of the evening here

Esther Mackay and Yvonne Gray MC’d this big night while Damon Collin from the Wellington Region led the mighty sing-along of old Scottish songs just before midnight along with his brother Simon and Philip and Helen Oliver.

Aileen Logie and Jason Morris, two Wellingtonians who often play for Johnsonville Club events were joined by Anne-Marie Forsyth in the band. Popular dances (and their tunes) during the evening included Scott Meikle, Catch the Wind and The Montgomeries’ Rant.

Jason Morris, Anne-Marie Forsyth and Aileen Logie played marvellous music all night including for a magnificent 32some Reel. Meanwhile the Unicorn had a bird’s-eye view of the crowded floor from the castle battlements!
Loralee dancing New Year Jig in the top set. Photo: Miriam Laidlaw
Johnsonville Club member Robert Vale dancing The Water of Leith with Brenda
Welcoming in the New Year at the Hogmanay Ceremony: RSCDS NZ Branch President Linda Glavin, First Foot Saskia and Piper Nicole Trewavas. Photo Miriam Laidlaw

Aileen Logie, Jason Morris and Anne-Marie Forsyth played again at the President’s Ball with Debbie Roxburgh as MC. Being a formal evening with drinks with the RSCDS Branch President Linda Glavin to start, followed by a Grand March, the Unicorn shrunk down to a miniature and nestled quietly between the MC’s lectern and the RSCDS Centenary banner all night.

Spot the well-behaved Unicorn! Photo: Miriam Laidlaw
Grand March: Loralee and Aileen Logie met-up in the middle as they formed their two-couple row! Photo: Miriam Laidlaw

The President’s Ball dances and music that appealed included The Sailor, The White Heather Jig (an oldie that’s not danced often enough these days!) and The Gentleman.

Loralee at the right dancing The Gentleman. Photo: Miriam Laidlaw

Glenfiddle together with members from Lynne Scott’s Musicians’ Class (including Lee, Cassandra and Brenda from Wellington) filled the stage on the Closing Night. Their rousing renditions of the music for the programme of dances, briefed by MC Damon Collin, included old favourites Miss Gibson’s Strathspey, Seton’s Ceilidh Band and The Deil Amang the Tailors.

Closing Night: Glenfiddle and members of the Musicians’ Class played wonderful music for the dancers. Photo: Miriam Laidlaw

Tired out after a week of dancing, the Unicorn nodded contentedly in time to the music from the castle on the stage.

Loralee and fellow Johnsonville Club member Robert Vale dancing as fourth couple in Easy Peasy Rights and Lefts, devised by Wellington devisor Gaye Collin.

To finish off a marvellous week, we all took hands and sang Auld Lang Syne, already thinking about meeting old friends and making new ones at the next Summer School in Nelson.

Thanks so much to Liz Hickey and her committee for organising this Summer School in the midst of a pandemic, and to the tutors, musicians, MCs, gophers, drivers, photographers and others who helped make this such a successful get-together.

See all my photos here and feel free to download if you wish.

Loralee Hyde
20 January 2023

All photos by Loralee Hyde except where noted

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